Friday, September 12, 2008

Right and Wrong

Due to the rather ‘heavy’ nature of this next post, I feel that I must give some kind of a disclaimer or let you know that though this post is up for discussion, please keep in mind that the thoughts and feelings I am about to delve into are those that have been studied in my personal search for truth. As you read my thoughts, I have included various thoughts of men who I know are prophets of God. If you have differing opinions, please feel free to have them. As to maintain the integrity of the blog, I ask that you not post anything negative in response to the things that I discuss. These are merely my thoughts, feelings and beliefs in regards to this specific topic. It is also a good place for me to write down my research and feelings so that I may contemplate them and build on them from time to time. This blog could also provide some valuable insight for others who are wandering in similar thoughts. Now with that, I will move on.

Lately I have been contemplating the existence right and wrong. Who or what determines right and wrong? They are just thoughts that I wanted to share. Throughout my life, I have made decisions based upon spiritual revelation and obedience to the laws and commandments that have been set forth for me within the gospel of Jesus Christ. I noticed that by obedience I have received some pretty incredible answers to prayers and have been completely happy in that which I have come to know about my Savior.

Granted I know there are laws and commandments that have been given to be my guide, I have taken a look at people in my life who have (in a non-judgmental word) gone another direction. Perhaps a direction that some would deem as 'wrong ' and by definition 'bad.' Some may even say these people have 'fallen away.'

Someone very close to me took a path that I would not have taken...however through some very hard experiences, he became aware that this path did not make him happy. A feeling of helplessness engulfed him as he fought off addiction and really wanted to go back to a place where he wasn't relying on substances to create an escape. Through this process he realized another path that really made him happy...truly happy. It was the way of the Lord. He found that when he followed the commandments set forth, that he actually reaped consequences that left him inspired, confident, humble and truly happy. I have seen this amazing transformation take place. I cannot begin to comprehend the incredible understanding he must have of the Atonement of Jesus Christ because of the way it has completely changed his life. I see a light in his eyes full of a deep commitment to stay close to the Lord. Completely humbled and willing, this man would do anything to continue to feel the love of his Savior. It is amazing to me to see this incredible change of heart.

So, the question I pose is, was his experience wrong?

It seemed that after I asked myself that question, I really started to think about what makes something right and what makes something wrong. I chatted with many of my friends about this concept and thought some of them had some really awesome insights.

After relating the story mentioned above, one of my friends said, “I often hear people say to me that they were grateful for their mistakes because they learned from them. Naturally we learn from our mistakes, but a mistake is just that –a mistake.” From this conversation, I learned that just because we learn from a mistake, does not excuse the fact that it is a mistake.

After relating the story to another friend, I said something to the effect of, “Who am I to judge the path that my friend had chosen for himself? Because look at him now. He is the most incredibly humble and repentant person I know. Who is to say that without those experiences, he would be this incredibly spiritual person?”

My friend told me that obviously we shouldn’t judge another person for what they have been through, but it is important to recognize that there are many paths for all of us to choose from. My close friend had chosen a path that led him away from the things that I was taught are right. Accordingly, he chose a path of sin. Sin by definition refers to not obeying the laws and commandments of our Father in Heaven. All men/women sin all the time. It is when we get caught in the snares of it and begin to seek after it that we get trapped.

In the talk Be Ye not Deceived by Elder Oaks, it states, “Satan seeks to deceive us about right and wrong and persuade us that there is no such thing as sin. This detour typically starts off with what seems to be only a small departure: “Just try it once. One beer or one cigarette or one porno movie won’t hurt.” What all of these departures have in common is that each of them is addictive. Addiction is a condition in which we surrender part of our power of choice. When we do that we give the devil power over us. The prophet Nephi described where this leads: the devil says, “There is no hell,” and, “I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Ne. 28:22).

If we choose the wrong road, we choose the wrong destination.

I looked up what right means in comparison to wrong, and I found a scripture in 2 Nephi 25:28-30.

Verse 28: And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffnecked people; wherefore I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony again you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

Verse 29: And now behold I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out

When I first read this scripture, I only read the first two verses...and in regards to what I was pondering, it left me confused and I found myself justifying certain aspects of life based on the sense of only worshiping Christ to be sustained in righteousness, but then I continued reading the last verse.

Verse 30: And, inasmuch as it shall be expedient, ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses.

It was remarkable how much my thoughts changed after reading the last verse.

I was again chatting with a friend about this. There was so much more thought going through my mind, but I found myself saying, “Well, never denying Christ is good enough for me.” I didn’t really have time to retract what I had said, or add to it, but never denying Christ is a loaded responsibility. To never deny Him means to always remember Him, obey his commandments, fulfill His ordinances and come unto Him always. God is merciful, and He is always just.

From the previous talk, Elder Oaks continues to say that many fall into a trap of carnal security, being ok with where they are in life but not really heeding the counsel of Heavenly Father through his prophets. He continues by saying, “Those who fall for this deception may profess to believe in God, but they do not take His commandments or His justice seriously. They are confident in their own prosperity and conclude that God must have accepted their chosen route.

Many in the world deny the need for a Savior. Others deny that there is any right or wrong, and they scoff at the idea of sin or a devil. Still others rely on the mercy of God and ignore His justice.

In the talk entitled Righteousness, Elder William R. Bradford said, “We live in a time when many men and women do not prescribe morality to their actions, and so they believe that what they do has only social consequences. In this they deny God, and they also deny that things are either right or they are wrong.”

So, now it is important to define right.

Elder Oaks in a talk entitled Religious Values and Public Policy said, I cannot think of anything more important than for each of you to build a firm, personal testimony that there are in this life some absolutes, things that never change, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. They are eternal truths, eternal principles and, as Paul tells us, they are and will be the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Unfortunately, other educators deny the existence of God or deem God irrelevant to the human condition. Persons who accept this view deny the existence of moral absolutes. They maintain that right and wrong are relative concepts, and morality is merely a matter of personal choice or expediency. For example, a university professor reported that her students lacked what she called “moral common sense.” She said they believed that “there was no such thing as right or wrong, just good or bad arguments.” In that view, even the most fundamental moral questions have at least two sides, and every assertion of right or wrong is open to debate.

Many differences of opinion over the role of religion in public life simply mirror a difference of opinion over whether there are moral absolutes. But this underlying difference is rarely made explicit. It is as if those who assume that all values are relative have established their assumption by law or tradition and have rendered illegitimate the fundamental belief of those who hold that some values are absolute.

From this, I learned that right and wrong are not open to debate. It is very real. Just as everything has its opposite, so it is with right and wrong. In 2 Nephi 2: 11, it reads, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad….”

It continues in verse 13: “And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall say there is no sin. If ye shall also say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness. Ad if there be no righteousness, nor happiness there be no punishment or misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God, we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore all things must have vanished away.”

I found that to be pretty profound. Without an opposition in all things, what is the purpose of life? That would then mean that without opposition, there would be no need for repentance, no need for guilt, no need for happiness, no need for a Savior. Kind of seems like a hopeless situation. Me, I prefer to hope. As for the rest, I will save that for a whole other discussion.

I also want to add that right or righteousness is governed by eternal truths and principals set in place by our Savior, and that these truths are unchangeable, just as God is unchangeable.

So then I thought, well I think I know how I can tell right from wrong, but how do I know for sure? I feel like there are often times gray areas.

In the talk Discerning Right from Wrong, Elder Faust said, "Occasionally our well-meaning young people want every detail of appropriate and inappropriate conduct to be specified, perhaps so they can feel comfortable in getting closer to the edge. They sometimes seem more concerned with what the gospel prohibits than what it gives. . . .

My strong advice is, if there is any question about your personal conduct, don't do it. It is the responsibility of prophets to teach the word of God—not to spell out every jot and tittle of human behavior. Our moral agency requires us to know good from evil and choose the good.

If we are trying to avoid not only evil, but the very appearance of evil, we will act for ourselves and not be acted upon."

In the talk, Walking in the Light by Elder Eyring, it states,Long ago Heavenly Father, through His prophets, gave us a way to know which choices matter most and why—and how to make them.

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Wherefore, take heed … that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

The scriptures tell us the source and the power of the light.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him."

This quote goes back to what I already pointed out in a sense that it is my responsibility to never deny Christ, and by so doing, I am doing good continually. Anything that is good, is to not deny Him…and so it is a circle.

In the talk Finding Joy in Life by Richard G. Scott, it states:Your agency, the right to make choices, is not given so that you can get what you want. This divine gift is provided so that you will choose what your Father in Heaven wants for you. That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be. That path leads to glorious joy and happiness.

In conclusion, I would like to share my personal witness that I know that everything has an opposite, and because everything has an opposite that right and wrong do exist. I know that if right and wrong exist, there must be a means to determine what is right and what is wrong. I know that if wrong exists then I make mistakes and that mistakes are just that – mistakes. It is not just a moral implication. I know that if wrong exists, there would be mistakes, guilt, sin and remorse – there would be a need for a Savior to make the wrong things disappear until they are righted. I understand and know that to do right means to never deny Jesus Christ and by not denying Christ, I am following the commandments and actively participating in the ordinances and laws set forth by Him. I also know that I have the ability and capacity to know good from evil by the power of the Holy Ghost. With that I know that God is merciful and He is also just.

I love my Savior, Jesus Christ who has given me the gift of life and happiness. I love my Heavenly Father who made this wonderful plan, who provided a Savior for me so that when I do stumble into the wrong, that I have the opportunity repent of my mistakes and come unto Him.

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